It's Always the Quiet One

Rambling about life, culture, Project Runway, and the occasional fruity drink.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Don't Read This Book!

Don't even think about reading this book. In fact, don't look at this book or think about looking at this book! Ack! I saw you! You're thinking about it.

Today is the beginning of Banned Books Week. My mom sent me an email about it yesterday, figuring I’d be interested to see what made the list of “Most Challenged Books”. I was curious to see how many of them I’d actually read already. I was a voracious reader in my childhood (thanks to the good example set by Mom) and still do a lot of reading. I think I probably own enough books to start my own library!

So I headed over to the ALA’s Banned Books Week website to check out the list of what some people think kids shouldn’t read. I was a bit surprised by some, and not surprised at all by others. See if you agree.

2005’s most challenged book was Robie H. Harris' It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health. Another book about the same topic, It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families, is #10. Why were they challenged? Sexual content. Go figure. Books about sex with - GASP! - sexual content. (Like these are more damaging than a parent sputtering through that whole "bees and pollenization" routine.) And of course the Captain Underpants series made the list. Because the world has more than enough books about superheroes in their underwear, thank you very much. (Superman, I’m looking at you here!) Oh, and don't you dare go find out your Poopypants name. *

Here’s the top ten for 1990-2000:
1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz – I remember reading this as a child and getting all scared by it, but I also checked it out repeatedly because it was so deliciously scary that it was fun.

2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite - I’ve not read this one, but it got good reviews on for how it deals with the issue of two-daddy families. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman, a similar book, comes in at #11.

3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – I was never interested to read this book and they didn’t make us in high school. I know what it’s about, though. Besides, they never picked any good books to make us read. It was all stuff like The Jungle by Upton Sinclair which in parts talks about rat droppings and dead bugs in meat processing plants before they had the USDA, which is gross, yes; but you want the kids to eat the cafeteria food after 3rd period English, don't you??

4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – What’s so bad about a kid who stands up for himself against a bunch of bullies? Or even more importantly, one who doesn’t want to participate in a school fundraiser? (Story of my high-school life right there. Band Candy! Cheese and sausage! Candles! Gah!) This book does have a lot of violence in it, but kids can probably get the same exposure to violence playing video games or watching certain cartoons. At least this way, they're reading!

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – Okay, yeah, this is full of derogatory terms for ethnic groups, but come on. You have to consider the time in which it was written, and think that maybe, just maybe, the author was trying to make a social comment on those types of labels. And you know, I think there are some ethnic groups today that call themselves the exact same things. On purpose.

6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – Read it, liked it okay, didn’t think it was nearly so bad as the ending of The Grapes of Wrath, also by Steinbeck. That’s got a high ickiness factor to me. I can’t even type it! (Just click on the link and read the summary.)

7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling – I’ve read all of these numerous times, and so have lots of kids I know, and not one of us learned any witchcraft from them. I do know one boy who, out of curiosity, checked out a "serious" book about witchcraft and after he read it, said to me, “That book was about stupid.” Plus we have to be honest here: who wouldn’t want the ability to summon items? Accio car keys!!

8. Forever by Judy Blume – Teenage love and sex. I read it as a teen and it didn’t make me want to go out and do anything. If anything, it probably made me a lot more wary of boys and relationships in general for a while. (Which may explain my pathetic choices in high school boyfriends.)

9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – Two friends create an imaginary world in the woods. This book has a death in it but I always thought it was handled very well. I got a lot more freaked out by the death in A Separate Peace by John Knowles (where the main character breaks his leg and some bone marrow gets into his bloodstream and kills him), which we were required to read the same year I had foot surgery, and it caused me to worry endlessly that I would meet the same fate.

10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – Oh no! Another series about a teenaged girl growing up and facing all the icky things in life that everyone else has to face! How dare they publish these? Don’t they know that teenaged girls don’t want reassurance that they’re not the only geeky awkward girl in the world? Sheesh.

You can find the rest of the list here. But here are some I’m puzzled by:

  • In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak – I’m hoping this one gets challenged for a better reason than the main character is naked in two pictures as he’s changing clothes! But if there’s a better reason, I sure as heck can’t think of one. It’s just about a little kid’s dream, which is not any worse than Where the Wild Things Are - which is going to be made into a movie. I hope they don't screw it up like they did with...
  • James and the Giant Peach – Okay, James’ parents get eaten by a rhinoceros. That’s pretty gruesome. But most kids know that rhinos do not eat people. And besides, the way his mean aunts get squashed by the giant peach is AWESOME. This is one of my favorite books ever. (But the Tim Burton movie? Eh, not so much.)
  • Where’s Waldo – Huh? What’s so bad about this? Maybe there are naked people doing stuff in the pictures that I just never saw… must go buy one of these and see! And for more Where's... fun, try Where's Dan Quayle? and Where's Elvis?
  • Speaking of naked people doing stuff in pictures, Sex by Madonna is all the way down at #19. I’d think THAT would be closer to the top. At least worse than Harry Potter!

Anyway, there are some ideas for your fall reading list. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for parents’ rights to not let your own child read books you think are inappropriate. What I’m NOT for is someone else being able to tell me what I can let my own children read. Will I let them read books from this list if they bring them home? Heck yeah. If it’s one I haven’t read, I’ll probably read with them, and get a good discussion going if needed. I think that’s what we all need – more discussion and less dictation.

*Mine is Poopsie Barfbuns.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heehee, mine is Poopsie Pizzashorts.
I have three Where's Waldo books. I think there's a topless sunbather in a beach scene; that probably did it. There's also a sailor puking over the side of a boat on another page. Not to mention the page of vampires, witches, and other spooky folk in another book. Those probably were enough for the narrow-minded idiots out there banning books.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi hon,

Everything okay? (Last your BPR-fans heard from you was when you commented that your recap would be late because you were under the weather.)

Much love from your fan,
-- desertwind

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forgot to date my desertwind-comment:

October 19th.

3:24 PM  

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